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bookluvingbabe

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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^ It's okay Jason--that's what our autocorrect function in the brain does--glossed right over that (although I see where your bias lay... ^_~ )

So after polling GEgrandma, who promptly said, "anything is fine, but not too..." (I'm not sure what the "not too" part is, so doing my best here), I have the following ideas. Also, apologies, jasonc, my mom's not very adventurous food-wise for some things, so I had to gloss over some of your ideas...  -_-;

1. Booked: 360 at the CN Tower (she wanted to do touristy) and Yasu (after pouring through that Chowhound thread--thanks!).

2. Touristy other places involving food:  Kensington & St. Lawrence Markets (what to taste and see?), Distillery District (Toronto Christmas Market?), walking around Chinatown? Advice would be greatly appreciated.

3. Touristy other places not involving food:  Bata Shoe Museum & Niagara Falls (taking the GO Transit over--any "walkable" places appreciated).

GEgrandma is taking the approach of "it's Toronto; we can eat at any dim sum place and it'll be great!" But I am the cautious one; are there okay places within the Chinatown area?

Itinerary is as follows:

Day 1: Arrive and check in early afternoon. Walk around until 6-ish dinner reservation at CN Tower. (This is where I was thinking Distillery & St. Lawrence Markets?)

Day 2: Breakfast at Kensington Market, then Bata Shoe Museum or Chinatown until 5-ish seating at Yasu.

Day 3: Take transit to Niagara Falls. Do touristy stuff and walk around going "ooh and ahh" and "I'm freezing" around the Falls.

Editing and such advice appreciated. Don't want to wear out my mom either. Thanks all!

I did a major driving trip for business with a circuit that wound through Buffalo, Grand Island, Niagara Falls, St. Catherines, Niagara on the Lake, Toronto (including Cenre Island) and on annually for more than 25 years.

If you are intent on visiting Niagara Falls and can, rent a car.  Serious.  It is an easy drive from Toronto to Niagara Falls on the QEW.  Primary reason is that this will allow you to stop at Niagara on the Lake which is absolutely beautiful.  If you and your mom enjoy wine Niagara's wine country (200 wineries?) is gorgeous also.  I would liken Niagara on the Lake to Williamsburg.  Niagara Falls is interesting and the Falls are spectacular.  It will also probably be dead over Thanksgiving.

You may also want to spend two full days in Toronto.  It is almost the size of Chicago and there is a lot to see and do.  I suspect that once you get there you'll find that you may not leave it.

Last, snow.  I am not sure how much snow Toronto and the area south to Buffalo has received.  Perhaps little if any, perhaps pockets with a lot.

And, for opinions on restaurants, "Estufarian" is on the Toronto board of Chowhound and has been posting for 15 years.  He is extremely knowledgeable and sophisticated and totally up (and opinionated as I) on where to go today.  He is probably the "father" of that board.

Enjoy!  Toronto is a Great city.

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And if you do Niagara Falls, the Canadians have the better side of the river.  The American side kinda sucks, other than Goat Island.  But the money shots are all on the Canadian side.   

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I did a major driving trip for business with a circuit that wound through Buffalo, Grand Island, Niagara Falls, St. Catherines, Niagara on the Lake, Toronto (including Cenre Island) and on annually for more than 25 years.

If you are intent on visiting Niagara Falls and can, rent a car.  Serious.  It is an easy drive from Toronto to Niagara Falls on the QEW.  Primary reason is that this will allow you to stop at Niagara on the Lake which is absolutely beautiful.  If you and your mom enjoy wine Niagara's wine country (200 wineries?) is gorgeous also.  I would liken Niagara on the Lake to Williamsburg.  Niagara Falls is interesting and the Falls are spectacular.  It will also probably be dead over Thanksgiving.

You may also want to spend two full days in Toronto.  It is almost the size of Chicago and there is a lot to see and do.  I suspect that once you get there you'll find that you may not leave it.

Last, snow.  I am not sure how much snow Toronto and the area south to Buffalo has received.  Perhaps little if any, perhaps pockets with a lot.

And, for opinions on restaurants, "Estufarian" is on the Toronto board of Chowhound and has been posting for 15 years.  He is extremely knowledgeable and sophisticated and totally up (and opinionated as I) on where to go today.  He is probably the "father" of that board.

Enjoy!  Toronto is a Great city.

Lots of stuff to reply to here!

  1. We barely got any snow!  Maybe half an inch and it'll all be melted by Monday.  Most of it is gone now. Kind of surprising given how close Buffalo is.  
  2. Agreed re: Estufarian's post. I've come across his work before too.  Also, for Chinese, a poster named Charles Yu is beyond reproach.
  3. I do also think Niagara is going to be a pain in the neck on the Go-Train. I wonder if renting a car would be that much more expensive than the two round-trip train tickets and possible cabbing when you get there.
  4. The CN Tower restaurant isn't really my kind of thing, as you noted, but if it's a clear day you'll get an incredible view. 
  5. Try Rol San in Chinatown, but try to get there early as a line usually forms. I think you'll find the quality is a step above Fortune-strata restaurants in the DC-area and considerably cheaper - especially with the favourable exchange rate you are getting now!
  6. With regard to the CN tower day, St. Laurence Market is walkable from/to the Tower. It's closed Monday though, so be careful there. It's touristy but there is a seafood place - Rock Lobster - that is actually quite well respected locally and has a food truck and restaurant elsewhere. There's a downstairs with a really good salsa vendor with free samples. They are really expensive to buy though.
  7. I think you'll be surprised about how quickly you can work your way through Kensington Market. But it's a cool area. I'd try either Kaplansky's, which is an internationally recognized deli (featured in David Sax's Save the Deli), with house made smoked meat. Get the fatty version. It's not in Kensington Market though. But only about two minutes walk away. I'd also maybe try Nu Bagel in Kensington. It's a good represetnation of Montreal-style bagels. I was having some trouble with them being too doughy at the end of the summer, but the owner said they were training a new baker, so I have to think it's probably fixed by now. Maybe get some for the hotel room and get your own cream cheese elsewhere. The bagels are only $1, but their cream cheese is expensive. 
  8. Never been to Yasu but I used to live right across the street (it was a Persian restaurant then). Very exciting!
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How was it?

Well, jasonc--three days after the trip, I had about a page of my write-up written and then, somehow the website timed out, and all my writing was lost (the auto-save feature only "saved" 3 sentences). But then life took over, and I haven't found time to rewrite it, so I am going to write it up in the next few days.

Had a lot of fun! Thanks for all of yours and others' recommendations!

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]Well, jasonc--three days after the trip, I had about a page of my write-up written and then, somehow the website timed out, and all my writing was lost (the auto-save feature only "saved" 3 sentences). But then life took over, and I haven't found time to rewrite it, so I am going to write it up in the next few days.

Had a lot of fun! Thanks for all of yours and others' recommendations!

[Mary, what operating system and browser are you using? Was it a new or existing post? There should be NO problems with the auto-save feature, and it's saved every TWO MINUTES after a change is made. I had a problem using Chromebook on existing posts, sent it into Invision, and they fixed the bug in a day. ANYTIME ANYONE is typing someone and they don't see the "Last Autosave made at xx:xx:xx," PLEASE take a screenshot and send it to me. This doesn't even need to be during a lost post; it can be anytime you're posting. This should not and (in Invision's eyes) does not happen. You may have found a bug peculiar to your setup, and I want to help fix it. Please PM me details. Examples of how the Autosave works are below:]

At 4:27 AM, I typed an "x" in a new post. Two minutes later, this appeared (please take note of the bottom-left corner of the text box):

post-2-0-41770800-1418808563_thumb.png

Then, I left the post completely, went back in (typing "Reply" as if I were going to type a brand new post once again), and got this (*):

post-2-0-45565200-1418808677_thumb.png

Then, I clicked on "View Auto Saved Content" and got this:

post-2-0-29218500-1418808796_thumb.png

Then, clicked on "Restore Content" and got this:

post-2-0-82062600-1418808864_thumb.png

The Auto Save works! I need to know situations where it doesn't.

(*) Is it possible you're assuming the Auto Save automatically comes up and fills in the text box? It doesn't. You have to actively choose it; otherwise, it's just a little sentence in the bottom-left corner, sitting there, and will be overridden and wiped out once you start typing again and not restoring it. This may well be your issue: Auto Save requires pro-active action on the poster's part.

If anyone, at anytime, has typed in a long post and thinks they've lost it, CALL ME at (202) 630-DINE and leave an urgent message. Do not do *anything* else regarding that thread (you can surf the website, and post other threads, but do *not* go back into that particular thread). I will get your message, call you back, and help you - I promise. Even if I don't call you back until the next day, the information will still be intact if you don't override it.

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Goodeats...I'd love to hear about your experience, even if it's perfunctory and aged. 

<sheepish look>

I was just thinking how to write this up, now, jasonc, especially, since, I really had a lot of fun! Here's my (long) summary.

Prior to arrival, I knew I didn't want to rent a car; I couldn't justify parking prices for the 3 nights, on top of rental costs, so I opted for mass transit. It was very confusing at first, since I tried to research prior to arrival, but my research efforts caused more confusion; however, I got really good at figuring out the system by the end of the trip. There are 3 viable systems in Toronto:

1. VIARail:  The Amtrak equivalent in Canada. Also equally expensive, but offers good deals via email subscription.

2. GOTransit:  Toronto's regional rail system. The link will take you to the PRESTO card system, which is a reloadable card system like the SmarTrip card.

3. Toronto Transit Commission (TTC):  Toronto's local transit system, comprised of subway, buses, and streetcars. Very convenient and pretty frequent. Also expensive, if you pay per fare. Currently, this is the only public transit method to get to downtown Toronto, although the GOTransit will take you to surrounding suburbs/neighborhoods of Toronto.

To get to downtown via the TTC from Toronto Pearson International Airport, you will need to take the 192 Airport Rocket (Terminal 1, Column R4 or Terminal 3, C12) to Kipling Station (subway). It costs $3 CAD for adults, $2 for seniors/students, and $0.75 for children, but requires exact change, if paying on the bus. Instead, buy a bus token at the Currency Exchange located near door S (I think) of Terminal 1, ground level, if you don't have exact change.

I ended up buying a PRESTO card for my mom and I, which, thankfully, turned out to be useful for the Niagara Falls trip via GOTransit (it was too pricey via the VIARail), but if you are going just be downtown or in the surrounding neighborhoods (e.g., Richmond Hill), you can just purchase TTC passes to save money and time. Or walk. We walked quite a bit because many places were quite walkable.

We were lucky to book a hotel near Union Station. This is such a convenient hub to everywhere--highly recommended if you can.

Day 1: While walking from Union Station to our hotel, I gleefully leapt for joy at the fact that a Tim Horton's was conveniently located across our hotel. Definitely made my mom try their doughnuts, which we had as a nice afternoon snack. Then we toured the Bata Shoe Museum and a bit of Eaton Centre, prior to dining at the 360 restaurant, located at the top of the CN Tower.

2 things of note:  1. Black Friday was alllll over Toronto during the American Thanksgiving holiday weekend, even though they didn't celebrate it, of course, and 2. Starbucks was equally all over the city--you couldn't really escape from it. I think it is slightly scary how much Starbucks has seeped into their culture too.

The CN Tower was beautifully lit and the restaurant was definitely not for those who have slight motion sickness (i.e., me). I was a bit nauseous from the constant turning, but my mom enjoyed every view from the top. The service was lovely and the kitchen was very respectable of our allergies. The food was pricey (as was the wine list--both expected), but well-executed and run-of-the-mill-touristy (nice) fare. It is a great way to sightsee the entire downtown area, especially since you can walk around the observation deck after you have finished dining. I would recommend it because of the experience.

Day 2:  Kensington Market and Chinatown (the 2 are near each other) during the day and Yasu for dinner.

1. Kensington Market is an eclectic little town-like feel of a neighborhood. It was a bit of shopping, bakeries, coffee shops, restaurants, butcher/fishery shops, and so forth in a concentrated area. You can get off at the center of it via the Spadina Avenue streetcar--very convenient.

We started out our day at Jason's recommendation:  Nu Bí¼gel. A great representation of a Montreal-style bagel, these are first boiled in honey water and then baked in their wood fire oven. My mom and I split a lox and cream cheese sesame bagel sandwich, which was delicious (think: nice chewy, soft, warm), especially with their housemade honey mayo.

Next, my nose led me to Wanda's Pie in the Sky, where I had to buy a slice or two for later...too full and could never resist pie. These are really well-made pies, with a nice buttery, thickish crust and not too much sugar or flavorings to let the main flavor shine through. I opted for a slice of the Ontario Sour Cherry, while mom picked their seasonal Sweet Potato Praline. Mom's slice still tasted great a day later, while I consumed mine happily that night. I think these ran about $4 CAD per slice.

Then, my mom overheard a tour guide of the market walking tour proclaiming, "this has the best coffee in Toronto!" So, of course, my mom had to try it, as this guide was the "professional." So we grabbed a cup of joe from Casa Acoreana (Yelp link. Also known as "Casa Coffee"). This was probably the cheapest, decent cup of coffee you can find anywhere, since it was $1. The star is probably its sister store, which sells freshly made cannolis for $3 (I think--this is from memory), if you buy a cup of coffee. Mom never tried cannolis, so I bought one. Being a typical Asian mom, she declared it was "too sweet," but liked the well-made filling and the crispy, crunchiness of the shell. Warning--this place is really a hole-in-the-wall, corner shop. Very lovely place, but turn the corner, and you'll miss it.

We proceeded to walk around, heading toward Chinatown, and as I "oohed" and "ahhed" about the butcher and fish shops along the way, I had to drag my mom into Blackbird Baking Co. A neat little shop with breads baked daily, this would be my daily stop if I lived nearby. A sampling of its sourdough baguette had me excited about its sourness, chewiness, bounce, if you pressed on it, and of course, its taste. Alas, needed to make room for dim sum, so no purchases made here.

2. Chinatown, next stop. Mom recalls having the best dim sum in Toronto, even though our last visit here was quite harried. So, we went with Jason's recommendation and dined at Rol San (FB link). I think it was pricier than dim sum in the DC area, but was really good. I especially liked the way they did their shrimp changfen, while mom loved their pork and bamboo rolled in tofu sheets. Their taro dumpling was also the best I've had in awhile. The one thing I didn't like was how they added gratuity onto the bill, even though it was just the two of us. This was the only place we ate at that did this.

Even though we were really full, we stopped at various bakeries. I would have to add to this part later, as I can't recall which ones we visited (most of our baked goods were consumed the next day on the train to Niagara Falls). The only two I could recall were Mashon Bakery (Yelp link--the best of all we tried) and Ding Dong Bakery (Yelp link--just alright, but conveniently located next to Rol San).

3. I think the most memorable meal of our trip by far was at Yasu. An intimately designed sushi bar, with a seating for about 8 total, the omakase designed by the chef-owner was very well thought out, with a nice progression through its 18-piece meal (plus dessert), showcasing fresh ingredients sourced globally. (Even though the chef-owner wasn't there that night--I think--since the two chefs present that night do not match online photos, you can still tell they were very well trained. I also liked the fact they asked if you had any food allergies prior to serving the initial course). At $80 CAD, I think it was a good value for what was presented and probably the freshest that I have had in awhile. I will post a dropbox link of photos later. 

I really liked how there were two chefs available for the tasting--1 for each two pair-seating, and I also liked how the chefs explained where the fish was sourced, along with the staff showing us a picture of it on the iPad from time to time. They answered any question lobbed at them, including my question of what type of rice they used in the restaurant (answer: koshihikari). The most interesting course was the Shirako (I won't spoil the surprise--click on thekitchn.com explanation)--and my favorite was probably the first course, a Hawaiian fish, the name I cannot recall right now (Opah?). It was nice and sweet, with almost an apple-y taste to it. They have a nice wine/beer list there, too.

Day 3:  St. Lawrence Market and Niagara Falls. By mass transit, you take the GOTransit Lakefront line to the 12 bus, I think, which will take you to Niagara Falls. It was about an hour's ride each way. The baked goods came in handy, as my mom didn't want to eat there, for some reason. The highlight was riding back with a bunch of Maple Leaf fans and seeing a brave 11 or 12 year old girl wearing the lone Caps jersey on the train. (I think Caps lost 3 straight that weekend...)

Prior to heading out to Niagara Falls, we started our day at the St. Lawrence Market. If you can, go on a Saturday, as that is when they have their farmer's market in the north building. The South Market, or the daily portion, reminds me a lot of Philly's Reading Market.

1. The Farmers' Market at St. Lawrence Market North (blogTO link) is more like the size of the Courthouse Saturday market, but with much more variety of options, such as a few butchers (with actual pigs hanging in the window of their portable butcher case), more ethnic selections and the like. My three favorites were:

a. Meadowview Honey (not sure if this is the correct link, but it is the honey vendor closest to the food stand inside the North Hall). An Ontario-based apiary, they make a variety of liquid and creamed honeys for sale, as well as beautifully carved beeswax candles. We bought two small jars of a type of creamed honey that I still can't bear to use, but found it quite tasty when I sampled.

b. Maple Syrup vendor right outside of the North Hall doors leading to the South Hall. Of course I cannot recall the vendor's name or find it online, but of the few vendors' "locally produced" maple syrups sampled, this vendor had the best taste to its syrup.

c. Merchants of Green Coffee. The best coffee tasted during the entire trip took place that morning. They only sell beans at the farmer's market, but they hand out sample coffee. You only need to drink it black. That's how good it was. One whiff of the beans and you know they carefully choose their beans and where they source from. I bought a 1/4 pound each of their India-sourced bean and somewhere from South America origin to brew at home. I just finally finished it around Christmas time, and it was still "good to the last drop." I wish I could direct order from here. I finally found two good coffee bean vendors, but one being here and the other being in Taiwan, I'd say I'm a bit out of luck...

2. South Hall was a place one can get lost quite easily. The market is split between two levels, which most of the vendors on the main level. We only made 2 purchases, since we were heading out to Niagara Falls shortly thereafter, but mom's one find made her giddy like no other.

a. Anton Kozlik's Canadian Mustard. Ironically, her giddiness was not over the mustard sold here, which rivals many a favorites you all have posted, but rather, she went absolutely delighted over their horseradish. Apparently it is that good. It was a very popular shop, as a queue formed soon after we arrived. So you will have to find out for yourself which type of mustard you like and whether the horseradish is really mom-approved good.

b. Future Bakery. Future Bakery actually takes up two stalls in the market (one directly across from the other), with one stall focusing on its baked goods, cakes, and tarts, and the other on its breads. After reading how every visitor should try the famous Toronto butter tart and seeing it sold here at a reasonable price, I purchased one to go. It did not disappoint, but is slightly an acquired texture/flavor, as it somewhat resembled eating a spoonful of Lyle's Golden Syrup.

After the market, mom was ready for a cup of latte to drink on the way to Niagara Falls, so we stopped in a Second Cup cafe. I think it is the second largest coffee franchise in Canada, after Starbucks (or third, if you count Tim Horton's). It served its purpose, offering a nice variety of coffee/tea and coffee/tea specialty products along with pastries and food. Mom liked the croissants there.

We ate at Momofuku Toronto on our last night here because it was closest ramen/noodle place to our hotel. Not very different from the other Momofukus, so I won't elaborate. But it was nice to have hot noodle soup on a cold night.

I think you can see why it took me so long to find time to compose it. As it is, I took an hour, unbelievably. But it was a worth it, as it was a lot of fun. We ended the trip flying out of the Billy Bishop Airport. I highly recommend flying in and out of here, as it was a short ferry service from the Union Station area to the airport, with virtually no wait at security (think tiny airport). A bonus was a nice lounging area with free snacks and beverages.

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Amazing - thanks!

I was nervous some of my suggestions wouldn't work out and I'm so glad they did!

Sorry about the Rol San prices - I guess I just don't know my shit there.  At least you got the benefit of a favorable exchange rate!

I wish you had asked me more about the TTC.  took me a while to figure that out myself and I could have passed it along.

Thanks again  -great write-up.

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Amazing - thanks!

I was nervous some of my suggestions wouldn't work out and I'm so glad they did!

Sorry about the Rol San prices - I guess I just don't know my shit there.  At least you got the benefit of a favorable exchange rate!

Thanks again  -great write-up.

Aw, shucks. Toronto's an amazing place--very vibrant, a lot of personality, and great places to go exploring.

Please don't worry/feel bad about Rol San prices. I mentioned it as a point of comparison; I suspect Rol San prices are on par with other dim sum restaurants in the area.

Also, I like figuring things out, so it was a good challenge for me re: transportation.

On all my trips, I keep receipts from everywhere I went and I try to keep a daily ledger to make sure I'm within budget, just to be safe. For Toronto, I was a bit surprised at my daily spendings, so I feel bad that the cost of living is a bit higher there compared to here...

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We've been doing a lot of traveling lately, with more to come and so a bit behind on posting.  We spent a long weekend in Toronto at the end of July. Our first time back there in nearly ten years despite a family tradition of quarterly trips over the boarder to secure dim sum.

Quick highlights below:

Bar Buca  Really cool, little cafe and wine bar that serves intensely delicious Italian small plates. We got a sampling of things to try including fried squash blossoms, dandelion greens salad, cannelloni, polipo and a special off menu mushroom dish. We also had some late lunch appropriate cocktails that were super bitter and really played off the food nicely. No wait when we got there around 2 pm on a Friday.

DaiLo  Trendy little spot that does Asian fusion in a really fun, elegant way. We had - Big Mac Bao (really does taste like a Big Mac- they're off menu you have to ask for them), Tempura Watermelon, General Tso Sweet Breads, Ponzu Waygu Carpaccio, Ma Po Halloumi and Shrimp Bang Xeo. Without a doubt the sweet breads and tempura watermelon were the high lights. Cocktails were also really delicious. Note the restaurant was really, really loud.

Patchmon's Homemade Thai Desserts We schlepped out to this place because the pictures in the Porter Airlines magazine looked cool. It is definitely an interesting little place. They let you try everything and make a pretty stellar Thai iced tea. If you like gelatinous Asian desserts this is the place for you.

Dandylion  This was our only non-Asian meal of the weekend. I'm finding that a restaurant that does vegetable centric non-vegetarian food in a really excellent way is a place worth making an effort to visit. They have a tiny menu but everything we ate was superb including the homemade sour dough bread and ricotta. The menu changes frequently. We started with two of the salads, one that was turnip greens and bottarga another that was beets and citrus. Mains were fish and lamb. For dessert we had a cheese plate with fresh figs and the mixed berries over homemade sour cream. The wine list is similarly short, but eclectic and jives well with the food.

Luckee Per family tradition, we ended the weekend with dim sum. We were surprised how empty the place was given how excellent the food is. Definitely not cheap but really delicious and very fresh. We enjoyed everything we got. The scallop and peashoot dumplings were definitely a favorite. Xiao Long Bao were good, but not our favorite. Har gow notable for being made with whole shrimp.

We also made a stop at the St. Lawrence market. Managed to score some wild Canadian blueberries and grabbed a bagel, lox and cream cheese from St. Urbain bakery. The blueberries were insanely awesome. The bagel was good  but not great.

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Taking a quick glance at the posts above looking for a dinner spot on a quick business trip up to Toronto earlier in the week, I decided to try the dim sum at Rol San.  Good stuff, and I'd go back, but the real revelation was a place called The People's Eatery I spotted a few doors down.  I stopped in there for a quick drink on my way to dinner the first night where I was also talked into trying a snack of chanterelles on toast.  Both were superb and brought me back for a full dinner the next night.  Overall the place makes me think of a smaller, low-key Rose's Luxury in its emphasis on taste over provenance or consistency of flavors.  There may not have been much coherence to the overall meal but man was everything good, from the cocktails to the sashimi salad (a great mix of textures and flavors) to the crispy Thai style pork belly, while the above mentioned chanterelles on toast might have been my favorite, thick very buttered brioche with a generous portion of mushrooms on top. Highly recommend this place.

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Doing a long weekend in Toronto, to take advantage of the relatively cool weather over July 4th (and 150th anniversary Canada Day).  Enjoyed our meal at Honest Weight, really impressed by the bar at Alo.  More food to come (yay!).

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Toronto Restaurants Subjective Best to Worst

ALO Bar - Great cocktails and food, excellent service, good space, and plenty of room to accommodate walk-ins.  All this is severely under-rating how lovely this place is.  We're definitely going to try for a reservation to ALO proper for a re-visit to Toronto plus re-visiting ALO's bar.

Black Hoof - we almost didn't go here because their website said cash and Canadian debit only.  Actually they're happy to take US-ian credit cards now.  I really love the place, it has a nice vibe and a menu that reads well and tastes even better. The cocktails are nice, the food is very good, and the waitstaff treated us well.  We loved it so much that we came back for an encore the next day. 

Honest Weight - Honest to goodness great fresh seafood, not expensive and generous portions, and nice space.  The service was a little space-y but pleasant, and easy to forgive when everything else clicks so well.

Dragon Boat - seems to be amongst the top 2-3 places in Toronto for dimsun according to current Chowhound chatter.  It's certainly popular with the local Chinese population.  There was a line out the door at 10:45 AM on July 4th, a work day in Canada.  Luckily we were able to get seated quickly and ordered way too much food.  They don't do pushcarts but let you mark up an order sheet and then bring the food to your table when  its ready.  It's definitely the best dimsun since my last trip to Shanghai (my opinion is that Shanghainese shenjianbao is impossible to beat in the dimsun category).  Overall I really liked the food, even though the presentation is not elegant and the taste is not very refined, they're all spot-on for tasty.  They are really generous with portions, one of their dimsun (of 3 or 4 per order) would practically be a full order elsewhere (which is why my fridge is now crammed with dimsun of dubious eatability). 

Bar Raval - Bar Raval gets lots of positive raves.  It's good but I don't think a level above top tier tapas/pintxo bars elsewhere.  The atmosphere is nice and the Pollard punch I had was really really nice.  The specialty here is expensive imported cans of Spanish seafood.  Having parted with a decent chunk of change for 2 smallish cans of seafood, I don't get the appeal.  The flavor profile is more or less tinned oysters packed in oil, not a bad taste but not worth $20-50 per 50g portion, at least for me.  The non-canned portion of their menu is quite good and they serve their full menu (plus donuts) for breakfast (starting at 8 AM), so maybe a great spot to start drinking early to a platter of ham, tomato toast, and some fine tender octopus.

Fishman Lobster Club - I couldn't resist *GIANT CRUSTACEAN MOUNTAIN* so we made our way here.  You get pretty good value for your money, for $120CAD before tax and tip, we got a 7+ lb lobster fried up into a foot plus tall mound of garlic scented lobster chunks plus a large platter of tasty fried rice with roe and tamale plus a large platter of decent stir fried pea shoots.  This is their suggested 2 person meal but could feed 4 and maybe even 6 normal appetite people.  Good thing they ran out of king crab because I was actually tempted to order the lobster/crab combo for 4 people (5 lbs lobster + 6 lbs king crab).  The lobster was nicely done - tasty, fresh, and easy to extract.  It's probably worth going just for the picture, getting to eat a giant pile of lobster is just a bonus.  If you can get smaller, 3-5 lbs is probably the sweet spot for lobsters, bigger lobsters have a higher proportion of weight tied up in heavy claws rather than tail meat. 

Edulis - scored a last minute brunch (really lunch, nothing brunch-y about the meal) reservation at Edulis.  It was quite good but didn't fully click with us.  I think I just don't like homestyle cuisine when I'm dining out, and it seems like Edulis is mostly serving an elevated kind of home cooking.  I had a similar issue with Vetri and Bibou in Philly, everyone else seems to love them but I'm luke warm on the experience.  The individual bites were really nice and +1 loved the house soda program here.  The rolls and butter here are really great too (rolls almost as good as Kinship's parker house rolls and butter almost as good as the best Parisien butter).  The atmosphere for brunch is lovely and warm, it seems like half the people here are regulars and knew the owners well.  If this sounds like your thing, you may be happy to know that Edulis offered half off on wines with their Sunday brunch. 

Buca Yorkville - the seafood charcuterie plate was very nice.  The seafood platter is nicely fresh but too dominated by the olive oil that it's doused with.  The pastas were nice too.  It's good but not good enough to justify the mark-up (probably 50-100% more expensive than comparables elsewhere).  We did considerably better and much cheaper elsewhere.

DaiLo - I've decided that Chinese fusion cuisine is just not my thing and may just not that good, period.  Always end up unbalanced and dominated by one or two notes.  And the cocktail I got here was the worst one I had in Toronto by far.

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[This is a wonderful post, astrid. Posts like this are why I have a moral obligation to permanently curate this website.]

This is an incredible number of restaurants to frequent in one long weekend.

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3 hours ago, astrid said:

Fish man Lobster Club - I couldn't resist *GIANT CRUSTACEAN MOUNTAIN* so we made our way here.  You get pretty good value for your money, for $120CAD before tax and tip, we got a 7+ lb lobster fried up into a foot plus tall mound of garlic scented lobster chunks plus a large platter of tasty fried rice with roe and tamale plus a large platter of decent stir fried pea shoots.  This is their suggested 2 person meal but could feed 4 and maybe even 6 normal appetite people.  Good thing they ran out of king crab because I was actually tempted to order the lobster/crab combo for 4 people (5 lbs lobster + 6 lbs king crab).  The lobster was nicely done - tasty, fresh, and easy to extract.  It's probably worth going just for the picture, getting to eat a giant pile of lobster is just a bonus.  If you can get smaller, 3-5 lbs is probably the sweet spot for lobsters, bigger lobsters have a higher proportion of weight tied up in heavy claws rather than tail meat. 

I think I saw this place in Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre Food Delicious Destinations. I didn't realize the mountain came from one lobster.  The king crab looked delicious too.  

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As with any old school Cantonese seafood restaurant, you even get to meet your lobster/crab/fish before eating it.  I don't know what they use to cut up the lobster claws, some of the shells were 3-4 mm thick.

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Had some great food in Toronto over the weekend. Started with a late snack at Kinka Izakaya Original. This place would kill it in DC, great energy from the moment we walked in, with the entire staff yelling out in greetings to any entering customers, waitresses leading sake bomb chants, and lots of buzzed (not obnoxiously so) twenty-somethings having a great time. Salmon Tataki was an excellent start, perfectly seared with ponzu sauce, scallions, and garlic chips. In contrast, the Sashimi Salad was the one miss, 5 sad small pieces of some forgettable fish drowned in a mountain of typical Japanese salad and dressing. Kaarage righted the ship. This came simply accompanied with some salad leaves, mayo, and a single slice of lemon, but was some of the juiciest chicken I've had anywhere, with the lemon juice and some leftover ponzu sauce providing just enough balance to keep it fresh. Finally, Grilled Saba (Mackerel) with garlic chips, onions, tomatoes, and lemon served on a hot plate was another divine example of simple ingredients executed well. At <$10 a dish, this is the kind of place I would hit every week if it was in my neighborhood.

On recommendations above, I visited Bar Buca and The People's Eatery for lunch and dinner the next day. "Intensely delicious small plates" sums up Bar Buca well. I had a fantastic Crudo of steelhead trout, pickles, citrus, oil, and yogurt where every bite just worked together seamlessly. The same could be said for a wonderful dish of roasted beets with honey and pistachios. I was hoping to finish with the vanilla pudding, but they had run out, and I ended up with an order of Gnocco Fritto, which were 4 puffs of savory pastry with a cunza, pistachio, and honey spread similar to the beet dressing. While fresh and delicious, this was a bit too filling, and the spread started attracting a few gnats, which was a little bit of a sour note to end on.  

The People's Eatery was a spot that appealed to my personal sensibilities, small, dark, hard to find, and out of place in the middle of Chinatown, but with a very cool laid-back style. The soundtrack (The Cinematic Orchestra) was chill and jazzy, which fit the atmosphere perfectly. I sampled a few small plates, a Fried Tongue Sandwich on a pretzel bun, Potato Latkes with pastrami-smoked trout, and General Tso Fu. All were tasty, with the General Tso Fu a standout, cubes of tofu with crispy skin surrounding a fluffy custardy interior and slathered with a rich, spicy, and complex General Tso-style sauce. The Bone Marrow with tortillas and salsa was a bit of a letdown, fine but one of the weaker renditions I've had. A well made faux-Cosmopolitan carried me through the meal. 

On our last day, we ended up back in Chinatown, and rather than waiting for Rol San, decided to try August 8 a few doors down, a newly-opened All You Can Eat dim sum and sushi place for $20 at lunch. I had tempered expectations going in, but this place vastly exceeded them. Food was ordered in individual quantities off of a tablet and came out quickly, with everything solidly above-average. The dim sum menu was small, but the classic dishes like tripe, chicken feet, spareribs, shao mai were all very good. Sushi was nothing special but fairly good quality as well. Due to an initial mixup, we started out with our tablet set to the dinner menu and got an order of dinner-only crispy calamari, which was legitimately excellent and made me contemplate paying the extra $10 just to get more. This was a meal I was happy to end the trip on, and the packed house as we left made me think it might not be so easy to walk-in the next time we come back.

 

  

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Good pics and review! Maybe it's changing, but if you look at TDot itself and exclude suburbs (Chinese area on Hwy 7, Scarborough, etc), Toronto feels like one of the worst food cities for a city of it's size? Possibly the worst that I can think of (NY, DF, Chicago, London, Bangkok, Mumbai, Shanghai, Beijing, Paris, etc. are all way better). Hopefully that's changing and I don't have to run to Scarborough every time I visit!

S

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A week ago, we snagged a table on the night before Boralia closed for its annual 2 week hiatus.  We opted for the $60pp (Canadian) Carte Blanche, which consists mostly of on-menu items with a few off-menu ones at the discretion of the chefs.  After identifying food allergies for the staff, the fun began.  Everything was delicious and the place is a screaming bargain.  Parking in the neighborhood is a bit of a challenge, though.  

We started with on-menu deviled Chinese tea eggs, likely the only dish we had that I could replicate easily at home.  Then we moved on to a crudo of arctic char, also an on-menu item.  Our first off-menu item was cod cheeks fried in an algae-tinted batter, crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, served over a saffron aoli.  Next came one of their signature dishes, mussels smoked with pine needles.  This is served in a smoke-filled globe which the waitstaff removes with a dramatic swirl.  This was followed by a vegetable dish, dumplings filled with squash over a tender and sweet fresh creamed corn.  Whelk was next on the menu.  The meat was removed, skewered, and served back in the shell over a slaw of shredded root vegetables.  Our meat dishes were a pepper-crusted seared bison having a 3-way relationship with parsnips (funnel cake, roasted strips, and parsnip puree) and duck breast accompanied by a seeded corn bread and chantrelles. Dessert was the weakest of the dishes, a chocolate and marscapone ganache embellished with tart fruit puree. (It was still delicious!)

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We had a great time in Toronto last weekend. Extremely pleasant and walkable city. Our hotel, the Bisha, was very nice, and in a great location. Here are a few of our dining and drinking experiences:

Dandylion - Absolutely loved this spot. It's a tiny restaurant, with a very small (focused?) menu, but everything we had was outstanding. There are only three appetizers and three entrees to chose from, which means that you can make your way through most of the menu without really straining yourself. There menu is not online, so I'm having trouble remembering exactly what we ate, but they had a grilled squid "steak" with piquillo peppers which was outstanding, and a pork with chanterelle mushrooms which was also great. 

DaiLo - Asian-Fusion in a very trendy-feeling setting. We liked it a lot. We were seated at the bar, and if I remember correctly at the time I made my reservations a regular table was not available, I was given the option of the bar or a high top table. Service was fantastic. There was a lot on this menu that looked great, and we ended up going with the tasting menu ($65 Canadian) primarily to avoid having to make any tough decisions. For us, it was the right decision. We were able to actually try more of the menu this way, and it was the correct volume of food. Highlights, for us, were the Crispy Octopus "Tacos" (the tortillas were actually slices of jicama), Torched Tamari Glazed Beef Carpaccio (served with a Vietnamese-style salad on top), and Sweet and Sour Pork Hock. 

Bar Raval - I loved this place. As mentioned above, it's not appreciably better than other tapas/pinxto places I've been, but it's also exactly the style of food that I like to eat, and I also just loved both the look and the feel of the restaurant. This is the place that we went that I most wanted to move to H Street. It's actually right next door to DaiLo, and it's pretty tiny. The menu is relatively small, but everything we had was good. They have a canned section which we did not explore. The Squid with Artichokes and Romesco was awesome, as was the Octopus a la Planxa. I was also a big fan of the Bay Scallops from the Raw Bar section. They were incredibly sweet and delicious. Good and relatively inexpensive wine list, and very good cocktails as well. 

Dumpling House - We had dumplings at this Chinatown spot (of course). It's a pretty small spot on Spadina. I'm not an expert in this type of food, but I thought it was delicious. The fried pork and chive dumplings were my favorite.  

Assembly Chef's Hall - We hit this place up for lunch, and it's a pretty large food hall with 18 different vendors. I think it's probably a better bet during the week, as a majority of the options were closed on a Saturday. We got ramen from Ramen Isshin and tacos from Colibri, and both were quite good. I'd definitely recommend this for lunch if you're in this part of Toronto. 

Torteria San Cosme - Really good tortas in the Kensington Market neighborhood. The esquites were also great. 

NU Bügel - I don't think I'd ever had a Montreal-style bagel before. Given that, it's hard for me to rank these bagels within that category, but we did enjoy them a great deal. 

BarChef - This is a very cool cocktail bar that comes very close to bordering on obnoxious, but they save themselves by having outstanding bartenders and really well made and creative drinks. They get into molecular mixology a bit, and have a "Modernist" section of their menu where they get into this. These drinks are more expensive (the Vanilla Hickory Smoked Manhattan is $50, although most of the drinks in this section of the menu are in the $25 range). We went with one from this section because we thought we needed to have that experience, and it was a whole ordeal. There were tree branches and smoke, but also a very good drink. The rest of the drinks are more normally priced ($16 Canadian), and fantastic. Our bartender was wonderful, and I'd definitely return.

El Rey Mezcal Bar - This place was actually recommended to us by Alvin, our mezcal guide in Oaxaca. They don't have a huge mezcal selection, but it is a good and thoughtful list, and it's a cool space. 

Craft Beer Market - A friend had recommended this spot. While it's not the best atmosphere, in that it's cavernous with no personality, they do have 97 beers on draft from Ontario alone, so it's a good spot to sample some local beers, and worked well for us as we wanted to rest our feet for a bit during the middle of the day. 

Kensington Brewing Company - Very cool brewery, and they make some wonderful beers. 

Amsterdam BrewHouse - I didn't enjoy this brewery as much. It's also enormous, as I think I read they have seating for more than 500 people. The beers were fine. I also had to respect the fact that, on a Sunday afternoon, they weren't showing any football, and instead had every single television in the place tuned to the Blue Jays-Yankees game. 

Horseshoe Tavern - We went to a show here, and it's not a bad rock club. Pretty tiny, but good sound and sightlines. It's also insanely hot. 

 

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